National Coming out
I’m Coming Out
Coming out is scary, but Wana celebrated National Coming Out Day through interviewing four members from the Wana community who wanted to share their journeys! Meet Tony, Jeff, Layne and Billy.
A common theme among all four individuals is that everyone has multiple coming out stories whether it’s with their friends, family, or practitioners. Stay tuned to get to know our members on a more personal level!
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TeamWana member @hannahdawnwright sits down with 4 members of the LGBTQIA+ Wana community to hear their coming out stories, celebrate inclusivity and equality, get advice on how to own your sexual orientation, and explore the impact of sexuality on one’s own health journey. Thank you to our participants @loveelaynee @billyabaj @thetravelinbum and @tonynana for reminding us that while we are all unique, there is more that unites us than divides us 🙏💙 #nationalcomingoutday
I technically have three coming out stories! Keeping it short, though, I was studying abroad in Italy when I was 19 and I checked out this guy when I was there. That’s when I realized ‘Oh my god, I like guys.’ A few weeks after coming home, the first person I came out to was my younger brother.
I had a whole transformation. I lost 25 pounds, I was learning more about my health, and then I learned more about my sexuality. So it was all happening all at once. On my 20th birthday, I thought ‘You know what. I’m going to take my friends to a gay bar. I don’t feel like hiding my sexuality.
Were you nervous? Did you feel supported? What was it like?
I was really nervous because I wasn’t out to my mom yet. I got these anxiety thoughts because I was in a frat at the time, but they were so supportive and I was so grateful for that.
Anxiety is very prevalent for the LGBTQ+ community and it can lead to chronic illness all because of sexual orientation. What tips can you give to anyone managing that?
I know this sounds so cliche, but you’re not alone. I go to therapy to help manage my anxiety and it’s okay to talk to someone about it. If you don’t want to talk to a therapist or even a friend, it’s great to write about it too.
Meet the The Travelin Bum aka Jeff
I feel like being in the LBGT community you never stop coming out. If you have a new job, you have to come out at that job. If you meet someone new, it’s not that you have to come out to them but there’s a conversation that's had to be had. I came out when I was 21 to all of the college friends. I guess you can call it internalized homophobia that I had where I felt like for the first 21 years of my life, I had this plan in my brain where I was going to be like my parents. I’d be married by 25, have kids...I had this life path for me when I realized that wasn’t my reality...that was the biggest struggle for me.
Do you think that was pressure you put on yourself or it was societal pressure? Maybe a mixture of both?
It was a mixture of both. When you’re younger, you’re not taught anything about being gay. As a gay man, you’re thrown to the wolves to learn how to have gay sex, learn about gay culture, and there’s not real education level that teaches or prepares you for any of it. The way you’re brought up assumes that you’re straight. Not gay or bi. You’re straight, here’s how life goes.
When did you realize that you’re gay? How long did it take you to become comfortable with who you are?
Not until 2017, 3 years ago. It started off with close friends, then I moved to New York and tried to assimilate into gay culture. It took me a good year post grad trying to explore and live my life. I’m grateful for my extended family because I never came out to them formally. They saw my story in an article on the Internet and sent me individual messages telling me that they’re proud of me.
Hearing everyone’s story is all so amazing and crazy because they’re all so different but the same at the core of it.
What was your biggest surprise in your coming out journey?
My biggest surprise was coming out to myself. I’m so lucky that the people around me are accepting and supportive. Knowing and accepting it in myself was the most difficult because growing up, I had a different idea of how my life was going to be.
What did the word “lesbian/gay” look like to you before and after coming out?
There’s such a weird stigma with the word “lesbian” in my life. Still to this day, I get awkward about that word. For example at the doctor’s office, I’ll say “my partner” or “gay” instead of using the word “lesbian” and even before coming out, the word made me uncomfortable. Now after coming out, I’m now challenging myself to say it because it’s who I am.
What can we do in society to destigmatize that word?
Just use the word. Own it. We don’t have to be weird about it. It’s under the rainbow, we should use it!
The whole Layne coming out story started out in 7th grade and I had a total crush on this girl who is now my girlfriend. She was my first kiss and it was all a secret because I was 12 and I didn’t know how to process those emotions. Having those close friends in high school who were there and knew that this is who I am but also knew that I wasn’t ready to come out yet was so important. I was blessed to have a team and coach in college that held my hand and loved me through the process of accepting who I am.
Meet Billy ;)
What was your coming out story like for the healthcare system? How has it impacted your quality of healthcare?
In some ways it’s scary and in some ways it’s empowering. I just got a new primary care practitioner and I got nervous because you have to fill out the questions about sexual health and care. It’s really intimate. For me, it’s really important for my doctors to be ‘queer literacy’ where I don’t have to explain. I can be comfortable with myself and when I tell them something, and eyes don’t bulge out of their head, when I talk about the number of sexual partners etc. They have an objective response to what I'm saying.
What would you recommend to someone who is finding a new healthcare professional? Or for someone who is coming out and wants to find a new practitioner? How would you prep for a conversation like that?
It takes a lot of courage to advocate for yourself. With a lot of practitioners, you have to explain to them your pronouns, behaviors, and preferences because you don’t want to have to hold back from your practitioner. There are a lot of clinics with LGBT+ focused practitioners... but if you’re going to a practitioner that does not want to listen or have the tools, you can try to educate them; however, that’s not your place. A doctor’s office is the place where you get the care you need. Ask your friends and go on Wana to ask if there are any LGBT doctors in your area!
What is the biggest stereotype in your own coming out story that you wish you would’ve known ahead of time?
A lot of people make your journey about themselves saying, “Why didn’t you tell me?” When I first came out, people would say “We always knew”. This isn’t really affirming or making me feel better. I’m still trying to get my footing and understanding of who Billy is and what he stands for. You have to try on a lot of heels and put on a lot of wigs to find out who your friends are and who you are. This process is about getting to know who you are, falling on your face, and hopefully the people around you don’t say “Oh yeah, we already knew. It’s fine.” That’s what’s great about Wana. We have a huge LGBT community and it’s not that they’ll hold your hand through this, but they can really connect and relate with you.
Thank you Tony, Jeff, Layne, and Billy for sharing such intimate stories, hopefully, they can support someone that is going through their own journey. If you are looking for some LGBTQ+ friends to chat with, head over to Wana. All of the guests from this article are members of Wana and are happy to chat about chronic illness to drag race.